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Archive of July 21, 2006

Melkite Catholic Archbishop issues “SOS” for Christians in Galilee

Konigstein, Germany, Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - Today, in midst of a general conflagration between the resistant movements in Lebanon and the Israeli authorities, Elias Chacour, the Melkite Catholic Archbishop of Akka, Haifa, Nazareth and all of Galilee, urgently appealed to the organization Aid to the Church in Need for help.

“The whole Galilee region is practically paralysed,” the archbishop wrote, “(there are) no jobs, no circulation, and people stay at home waiting for deliverance and sometimes receiving a rocket or a cachucha instead.”

The archbishop pointed especially to the Galilean villages of Jish, Buqaia, Fasuta, Tharsheeha, Miilya and also Haifa and Shefa’amr, where he said, “people were hit directly or indirectly, some are hospitalised.”

Archbishop Chacour further explains, “most of the Jewish brothers and sisters have shelters against bombs which the Arab villages have not.” “Others,” he said, “escape to Tel Aviv, which is not possible for us Arabs.”

Although all of these people need support, especially those directly suffering damage to their homes or personal injuries, Archbishop Chacour specifically requested help for 30 families under his care. These Arab Christians are denied any compensation from the State of Israel. “I never imagined that a day (would) come that I (would) have to make an appeal,” he wrote, “a kind of SOS for us Christians in Galilee. We wish to wipe away the tears of the children and parents in these difficult times.”

The Jerusalem Post reported this morning that while no rockets were fired overnight, several barrages hit Galilee yesterday - several arriving before warning sirens went off.

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Bolivian press denounces unidentified NGO for helping 10 year-old girl obtain an abortion

La Paz, Bolivia, Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - Various media sources in the Bolivian capital reported Thursday an unidentified non-governmental organization (NGO) has helped a 10 year-old girl obtain an abortion in violation of an order to await a Court ruling on the matter.

In a slight-of-hand intended to pressure public opinion to support the legalization of abortion, the unidentified organization ignored specialists who warned the procedure would entail serious risks for the girl who became pregnant through rape and was in her twelfth week of gestation.

According to the ATB network, the abortion took place in La Paz under the argument that the girl was having health problems and that authorities were taking too long to resolve the case.  Two weeks ago the parents had requested an abortion for the girl, with the backing of prominent feminist groups.

On Thursday a judge in the city of Quillacollo-where the rape occurred-was to issue a ruling on the parents’ petition, but the NGO in question did not wait for the decision.  According to Carlos Polo of the Population Research Institute, the case shows that those who are promoting abortion in the region are trying to use cases that have already occurred to achieve the legalization of this practice.”

“We’re dealing with a false ‘defense of women.’  But in reality this is nothing more than turning women who are poor or are in difficult situations into instruments of predetermined objectives, of a predefined agenda.  And real people end up becoming just a pretext,” Polo maintained.

“The promoters of abortion in Latin America have come up with new ways of achieving their goal.  Some time ago they abandoned the idea of getting a law passed solely by the executive or legislative branch that would legalize or decriminalize abortion. One of the reasons for his is their repeated failure to do so,” Polo warned.

He also pointed out that to propose abortion as a “solution” to a problem is deceptive.  “Abortion kills a child and harms the woman, sometimes in her body and more frequently in her mind.  Therefore, for whom is abortion good?” he asked.

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U.S. Bishops Push for Parental Rights in Abortion Cases

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal William Keeler, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Pro-Life Activities, released a statement this week, urging the Senate to pass an act that would affirm parents’ right to protect their minor daughters from those who would facilitate abortions for them.

Keeler, who is also Archbishop of Baltimore, said that the act protects the rights of parents as well as those of minors in a traumatic experience.   “Abortion can involve life-long emotional and physical trauma, particularly for young girls,” the Cardinal said. “In such situations, the love and support of families is critical and needs to be encouraged.”

The U.S. Bishops and supporting lawmakers say the necessity for the legislation has arisen recently after several individual states have passed parental consent laws.  The new state legislation creates a situation in which a child still under the custody of her parents could be taken to another state to procure an abortion without her parents' knowledge.

Cardinal Keeler said that the proposed legislation, “will help protect parental autonomy in states with parental notification or consent laws on abortion,” “It will allow parents to file suit in cases where their fundamental rights and responsibilities regarding the care of their children have been usurped by others. No one else-boyfriends, in-laws, counselors, friends-can substitute for the fundamental role of parents.”

“The need to protect minors in these situations is compelling,” Cardinal Keeler said. “Parents should not be kept in the dark when the welfare of their children and their unborn grandchildren is at stake. Many states have wisely chosen to protect parents’ rights in this area, and the intent of their protective laws should not be thwarted.”
 
The Washington Times reports that lawmakers will likely start debating the bill today.  Similar bills, which have already been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, have failed to gain the support of Senate Democrats.

The last bill to come before the Senate received the majority’s support, 54-45, but it was not enough to overcome a Democrat filibuster.

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U.S. House votes to protect “God” from courts

Washington D.C., Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - The United States House of Representatives voted on Wednesday in support of a bill that would protect the phrase, “under God,” which rests in the middle of the country’s Pledge of Allegiance.  The phrase has been threatened by U.S. courts in recent years.

The 260-167 vote was given support mostly by House Republicans, who, along with Senate Republicans, are pushing through several pieces of legislation this week, as part of their “American values agenda.”

According to the Associated Press, the bill, which is being sponsored by Rep. Todd Akin(R-Mo) would deny jurisdiction to federal courts, and appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, to decide questions pertaining to the interpretation or constitutionality of the Pledge. A state court, however, could still decide whether the pledge is valid within the state.

The legislation grew out of a 2002 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools.

The Supreme Court in 2004 reversed that decision on a technicality, saying that Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow did not have legal standing to sue on behalf of his daughter because the mother had custody over the child. Newdow has since revived the case and last year a U.S. District Judge ruled in his favor.

Sen. Jon Kyl, (R-Ariz,) has introduced similar legislation in the Senate, but it is unclear if the Senate would take up the bill this year, the AP said.

Lanier Swann, Director of Government Relations for Concerned Women for America, said that her group applauds the bill’s passage.  “Americans want to preserve our national pledge, which represents our devotion and loyalty to our country. Hand upon heart, little children across the country should be able to continue reciting this pledge without the fear of it being stripped away by activist judges.”

In support of the pledge last year, Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight, Carl A. Anderson, said that "if freedom of religion in America means anything at all, it means that it's just as constitutional to recite the Pledge of Allegiance -- complete with the words "under God" -- as it is to read aloud the Declaration of Independence. They both express the same truth: that our fundamental rights come from God, our creator, and not from government. To suggest that the language of the First Amendment prohibits the simple statement of that truth is to stand the constitution on its head."

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Archbishop Chaput urges civility, compassion in immigration debate

Greeley, Colo., Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - In the first of a series of town hall meetings on the volatile national immigration debate Monday, Denver’s Archbishop Charles Chaput urged listeners at Our Lady of Peace parish in Greeley, Colorado to show compassion for immigrants, calling for truly comprehensive reform of the country’s struggling immigration system.

According to a report in the Denver Post, the Archbishop said that "Sometimes, there is more heat than light…It's the job of the church to reduce the heat and increase the light."

He also expressed some skepticism at recent immigration laws passed in Colorado, which are being touted as the toughest in the country.

"I don't know what to say about the new laws,” he said, according to the Rocky Mountain News, “but I think it will make [immigrants] nervous about their status and how they will be treated by their community."

He added that, "Because someone has broken the law does not take away their human dignity. The application and implementation of laws can hurt families. ... To say these people have no chance to regularize their situation goes against the common good.”

Some 400 people were on hand for the first of two such meetings. Officials from the Archdiocese of Denver said that, “As the debate over this issue continues to develop, Colorado’s Catholic leaders continue to emphasize the importance of civil dialogue when discussing comprehensive immigration reform.”

In this light, the Archbishop said, “The church does not favor illegal immigration…But because of the very complex history of immigration in the last few years in the United States, it’s important to understand that the laws need to be changed and be made better.”

Fielding a barrage of questions from the audience, both in English and Spanish, Archbishop Chaput was asked to address the issue of amnesty. He said that because many immigrants have been here for generations, and have children who are Americans, it should never be public policy to separate the two.

"There can be some kind of penalties, but the consequence should not be the disruption of family life," he said. "I think people should be given a chance - and I don't call that amnesty."

While some questioned the Catholic Church’s stance on the issue, Archbishop Chaput explained out that Catholic Social Teaching says that all immigrants deserve dignity and the right to immigrate and earn a just living wage. Nations, on the other hand, also have the right to protect their borders.

“The Church does not favor illegal immigration,” he said, as quoted by the Loveland Reporter-Herald newspaper. “But because of the very complex history of immigration in the last few years in the United States, it’s important to understand that the laws need to be changed and be made better.”

Because so many of the immigrants are coming from Mexico--a predominately Catholic country--the Archbishop said that "in a very special way this is a Catholic issue,” and one that’s rooted in human dignity.

“Every human has dignity that no one else can injure,” he stressed. “Each of us, no matter where we come from, is made in the image of God.”

Sue Zamora, a local resident agreed. The Reporter-Herald quoted her as saying “Just because someone breaks the law doesn’t make them not a person anymore…We need to treat people as people.”

A second town hall meeting is scheduled for Monday in the Denver suburb of Centennial. 

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Mexican bishops announce week of prayer for national reconciliation

Mexico City, Mexico, Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - The bishops of Mexico have called for a week of prayer for national reconciliation to be held July 31-August 6, amidst the tensions surrounding the results of the recent presidential elections.

In a statement this week, the bishops explained, “Beyond ideological differences, we share a common history, values, and destiny that are now in jeopardy in this process. While every family has its legitimate differences and divergences, there is no place for hatred and much less for violence, which is always reprehensible and futile.”

“The Catholic Church calls on all men and women of good will to respect the law and work for reconciliation, dialogue, and understanding.  [The Church] also makes an urgent call for calm, tolerance, and moderation; demands that authorities act with truth and justice; and calls on the police force to act with maturity, generosity, and honesty,” the bishops stated.

They noted that while all Mexicans would have liked to have known the final results of the election by now, the razor-thin margin between the two presidential candidates, “has led to challenges and reservations that have profoundly impacted the institutions considered by all to be the support and guarantor of our new democracy.”

“The counting of votes has ended, but the legal certification has yet to occur,” the bishops continued. “Only then will we have a president-elect.  This task falls on the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary, which must issue its decisions on the basis of the law.  Fortunately for our society, this entity enjoys a well-deserved reputation of impartiality and autonomy which allows us to await its verdict with confidence.”

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House Bill could save embattled San Diego cross

San Diego, Calif., Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a hard-fought bill which could save a war memorial which overlooks the city of San Diego from nearby Mount Soledad and features a large Latin-style cross.

Philip Paulson, a local atheist has been engaged in battle to have the 43-foot high cross taken down since 1989, citing personal offense at its inclusion in a war memorial built in 1954 honoring veterans of the Korean War.

In May, a federal judge sided with him, and ordered the cross removed based on conflicts with separation of church and state. The ACLU has also backed Paulson.

Charles LiMandri, west coast director of the Thomas More Law Center, which has been actively fighting Paulson, said that “This case is one that should concern all Americans. It is a direct attack on our national heritage, and it is an attack that is occurring on our own soil. The ACLU and its minions, with the help of activist judges, seek to destroy what our Founding Fathers created-One Nation Under God.”

The new bi-partisan bill would transfer control of the memorial from the city to the U.S. Department of Defense, thus halting a court order to remove the cross. The bill now moves on to the Senate.

"This legislative victory represents another front in the battle to keep the Mt. Soledad cross in place," said Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice, which is also helping defend the cross.

"With the Supreme Court stepping in to put the court-ordered removal of the cross on hold -- it is clear that there are vital legal issues that must be litigated," said Sekulow, according to CNS News. "At the end of the day, whether the solution comes legislatively or judicially, we believe the Mt. Soledad cross will remain in place -- a very visible symbol of our commitment to honoring the men and women who gave their lives for our freedoms."

Bill 5863 passed the House overwhelmingly in a vote of 349-74.

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Frequent confession essential for priests, says German archbishop

Bamberg, Germany, Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Ludwig Schick of Bamberg said this week that priests who want to be effective in their spiritual work must themselves seek regular personal spiritual direction and confession.

According to the Kath.net news agency, during a Mass celebrating the ordination anniversary of several diocesan priests, Archbishop Schick emphasized that, “personal striving for holiness, spiritual accompaniment, and the sacrament of Confession are just as much a part of the priestly ministry as care for the poor, the sick, the suffering, and the abandoned.”

The archbishop recalled that priests should be good spiritual directors, as well as welcoming and understanding fathers in the sacrament of Confession.  He pointed to saints such as Philip Neri, Charles Borromeo, Camillus de Lellis, Francis de Sales, and John Vianney as inspiring models for the priesthood.

He also reminded his priests that in order to be good spiritual directors, they themselves must receive regular spiritual direction.  Priests who want to be truly, “authentic and bear fruit as confessors must themselves have recourse to personal spiritual direction and frequent confession,” he emphasized.

Archbishop Schick thanked priests for their commitment as well as their untiring effort to spread the faith and bring salvation to mankind.

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Altar boys to hand out Pope’s favorite cookie in preparation for September visit

, Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - A group of altar boys from the Bavarian city of Ratisbona have come up with a curious plan to promote Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Germany, scheduled to take place in just under 50 days.  They have announced they will be handing out the Pontiff’s favorite cookie to passers-by to encourage participation in the papal events.

According to the Kath.net news agency, some 20 altar boys from Mindelstetten in Ratisbona will hand out the cookies this Saturday.  One of the organizers of the project, Georg Fesslmeier, said, “With this undertaking, the altar boys of Mindelstetten want to do something specific so that this Pontifical visit will be remembered as the event of the century in our city.”

During the Pope’s visit to Ratisbona on September 12, 15,000 altar boys from all of the dioceses in Bavaria will take part in the Papal Mass.

The leader of the diocesan altar boy program, Johann Graf, said, “To be close to the Pope and experience this event with him will undoubtedly be a special experience in the lives of this large group of altar boys.  With their presence, their prayers, and their song the boys will participate in the Mass in a very intense and active way.”

Graf said it was very satisfying to see the altar boys preparing so enthusiastically for the papal visit.  He also revealed that an unprecedented 35,000 altar boys from Germany would participate in the international altar servers pilgrimage to Rome on August 1st and 2nd.

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Aid to the Church in Need denounces growing persecution of Christians in Asia

Madrid, Spain, Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - According to Aid to the Church in Need’s 2005 report on religious freedom, persecution of Christians in Asia is on the rise, with thousands suffering torture, prison or death at the hands of political and religious leaders in Asian countries.

The Spanish daily La Razon published excerpts from the report, noting that the Asian continent-including the Middle East-is where the greatest number of abuses of religious freedom takes place.  “In certain regions, for example, speaking in public about any religion other than the official State religion is prohibited.  In others, Christian worship is a sufficient reason to end up in jail.  The case of China, where Catholics can only profess their faith ‘by joining’ a national organization that controls their movements (the Patriotic Catholic Association), is one of the most criticized cases in the report,” the newspaper indicated.

The report also noted the case of India, “where growing Hindu nationalism and recent ‘anti-conversion’ laws have resulted in attacks against Christians,” including several deaths that have yet to be investigated.

In Asia and the Middle East, the countries with the greatest incidences of persecution include Iraq, the Palestinian Authority, China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam and North Korea.

The report also notes the religious persecution taking place on other continents. In Africa, there has been a decrease in Morocco and Tunisia, but the situation has worsened in Algeria, Kenya, Nigeria, Eritrea, Libya, Rwanda, Mauritania and Egypt.  Europe does not escape criticism either.  Aid to the Church in Need notes an increase in radical secularism affecting the Church in Russia, Georgia, Serbia and Bosnia.

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Group urges students to bring Bibles into the classroom

Trenton, N.J., Jul 21, 2006 (CNA) - A New Jersey-based group is encouraging students to bring their Bibles to class this fall for “Scriptures in School Week”, a new initiative aimed at increasing Biblical literacy in public schools through scholarly and non-confrontational means.

The group said in a press release that, “Inspired by the Great Commission [Matthew 28] and Isaiah 55:11, SIS Project is an effective, friendly, low key, legal, and ethical way for Christian students in public schools to casually and routinely introduce Biblical concepts into America's public school classrooms.”

The idea, which is complimented by the adult-based “Word at Work Week”, is for the Bible to be used as a reference in various in-class and homework assignments. Additionally, students are urged to carry and read their Bibles without shame.  

The initiative is being led in part by Trenton public school teacher Bob Pawson who is encouraging what he calls “Academic Evangelization.”

"Academic Evangelism creates daily opportunities for students from Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade to share Bible concepts with classmates and teachers in a scholarly manner,” said Pawson.

Likewise, he said that the idea is “legal, non- disruptive to the school, and should lead to enhanced scholarship, as well as improved student behavior.”
 
“Students can present Gospel truths academically by using Biblical references to complete some assignments each week such as essays, book reports, spelling sentences, penmanship or word processing samples, oral readings, dramatic presentations, and biographies. Bible concepts can even be presented in subjects like math, science, social studies, art, and music,” Pawson said.

Added the 26-year public school veteran: “A Great Revival is occurring in a most unlikely place: America's public schools - led by teens and children."

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